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Molecules in medicine

This module surveys a prominent area of contemporary medical science: the molecular understanding of disease and its use in the design of drugs to treat different disease states and conditions. You’ll be introduced to a range of drug therapy topics, including heart disease, infectious diseases (including bacterial and viral), cancer, and neuropharmacology. You will also have the opportunity to undertake independent research, culminating in the production of a literature review which is excellent preparation for the MSc project module (S810). 


S807 is an optional module in our:

It can also count towards E68, F60 and F62, which are no longer available to new students.

Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content. To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with an adviser before registering.


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
To enable you to make international comparisons, the information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ).
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Find out more in Why the OU?
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

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What you will study

This subject is of fundamental importance in medical therapy, because it enables potential drug intervention strategies to be identified and the drugs to be designed. Such drugs, designed to help the body to cope with transient or chronic disease, can both enhance quality of life and increase longevity.

The module is designed to enable you to develop a broad and balanced appreciation of these areas of contemporary medicine, rather than a detailed ‘professional’ knowledge. You will study two introductory topics which give a broad overview of the key scientific concepts and then study four topics (heart disease, infectious diseases - both bacterial and viral, cancer and neuropharmacology) in more detail.

You will learn

The aims of the module are to:

  • introduce higher-level study of the molecular aspects of drug action, particularly in areas at the forefront of research
  • develop the skills appropriate to study at masters level, so that you can both articulate your understanding of the molecular basis of drug action and apply the same skills to other areas of study
  • develop communication skills using poster presentations and online forums
  • develop the use of IT skills in the interpretation and dissemination of scientific information.

By the end of the module you should be able to:

  • demonstrate an understanding of the molecular principles that underlie the design, development and delivery of drugs
  • describe, with suitable examples, the thinking behind molecular intervention in the treatment of disease
  • explain the medical benefits and assess the risks of using drug therapies described in the module
  • use electronic means of communication and search and retrieve information electronically
  • assess secondary and some primary literature in a given area of medicinal chemistry
  • prepare an extended, cogently argued piece of writing that summarises an aspect of medicinal chemistry
  • manipulate simple mathematical expressions that describe the measurement of drug activity
  • use scientific software to analyse and present data.
Normally you must have completed either this module, SH804, SD815, SEH806, S808, S809, S819, or S827 before progressing to the MSc project module (S810) or the MSc project module for MSc in Professional Science (SXB810). Before progressing to the MSc project module for MSc in Medicinal Chemistry (SXM810) normally you must have completed either this module, or S827. 

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. Electronic communication will be used extensively. All study activities will be completed online.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

There are two interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs) which cover the general medicinal chemistry and drug design themes and four tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) which cover the specific disease therapies. One of the TMAs also includes a poster presentation (to be presented online).

Course work includes

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
2 Interactive computer-marked assignments (CMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.

Future availability

Molecules in medicine (S807) starts once a year – in February. This page describes the module that will start in February 2020, when it will start for the last time.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Entry requirements

    You must normally hold a UK honours degree (or equivalent qualification) in science or a science-related subject.

    If you can supply evidence of other study or experience that you believe equips you to study this module, you may still apply. Our admissions panel will review your application. For further advice, contact the postgraduate science team.

    All teaching is in English. We recommend you have an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of at least 7. To assess your English language skills, visit the IELTS website.

    You’ll need basic IT skills (e.g. searching online, organising files, using word-processing and spreadsheet applications).

    Preparatory work

    You should be familiar with the following:

    • Scientific notation
      – Do you understand what 5 × 10–4 or 0.05% means?
    • Physical quantities and the SI system of units
      – Physical quantities written as a numerical value with the appropriate unit
      – Basic units of metre, kilogram, second, litre
      – Prefixes such as nano (n), micro (μ), milli (m), kilo (k)
      – Do you recognise the meaning of ml–1, mol/m3?
      – Is it correct to say 1 cm = 10–2 m?
    • Basic knowledge of atomic and molecular structures
      – What do the atomic and mass numbers of an atom represent?
      – Do you know how many atoms are in water molecules?
      – Can you recognise the chemical structure of alcohol (ethanol)?

    Test your knowledge of basic chemistry. Try to answer the following:
    Elements and compounds (Q7 and Q8)
    Chemical reactions (Q15, Q16, Q25 and Q26)
    General chemistry (Q32 and Q33)
    Organic chemistry (Q41–Q55)

    If you feel you need to brush up on some topics, contact the postgraduate science team for advice and suggestions for background reading.


    Start End England fee Register
    25 Jan 2020 Oct 2020 £2450.00

    Registration closes 09/01/20 (places subject to availability)

    February 2020 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

    Future availability

    Molecules in medicine (S807) starts once a year – in February. This page describes the module that will start in February 2020, when it will start for the last time.

    Additional costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

    Study materials

    What's included

    A dedicated website, two course electronic books, online study guides and eJournal articles, online module guide, molecular drawing software (for download), online forums.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    • A desktop or laptop computer with Windows 7 or higher
    • The screen must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

    If you have a disability

    S807 depends heavily on reading and writing text on computer screens, and much of the material is presented on the dedicated website, including video material. You will need to spend considerable amounts of time using a personal computer and the internet.

    If you have seriously impaired sight or reduced manual dexterity, you may find using the web and module-related software challenging. You can obtain more information and advice from the MSc in Science Programme Office. The printed study materials are available in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully assessable using a screen reader and mathematical and scientific materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. The course requires you to access literature resources electronically. If you use a screen reader to access material on screen, you should check that it is compatible with the Open Library's electronic databases and resources before you start the module.

    If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Disability support website to find more about what we offer.